Returning wrestlers provide optimism for West Shamokin
With powerhouses Burrell and Kittanning sharing the same section, West Shamokin knows the best thing for its wrestling team to do is attempt to make progress.
The Wolves come into this season with a larger turnout for their team, and among that group are plenty of young wrestlers putting in work to make West Shamokin more of a factor in Section 3B-AA.
West Shamokin has a new coach this year — former assistant Tyler Altmeyer — but the change is little more than a switch of titles.
Previous coach Matt Reefer gave up the top spot because of work commitments but still is with the team as an assistant.
Leading the way is a core group of varsity returners that includes junior Brenden Glover (182 pounds), senior Brian Brown (160) and junior John Wissinger (195). Glover is coming off a 25-win season and a team-best third-place finish in the Section 3-AA tournament at 160, and he will have a shot to improve on those marks.
“Those are the guys that have been around the longest, and they're leading the other guys this year. They're our captains,” Altmeyer said. “We're an inexperienced team this year, but our numbers are high, and the rest of the guys can really look up to those three.”
Glover qualified for but did not wrestle in last year's WPIAL tournament, but Brown and then-freshman Brian Lukehart did reach the district level for the Wolves.
One of West Shamokin's biggest goals this season is to increase their number of wrestlers to advance from the section tournament and add that sort of experience to the growing program.
“We want to get something started and raise the level of expectations a little bit,” Altmeyer said.
“We're not trying to reach for the stars because that's unrealistic right now. But we want to try and win some team matches and get some guys to WPIALs and regionals. If one kid goes far or we do well as a team, that will give the younger guys something they can look up to.”
Seven-time defending WPIAL Class AA champ Burrell and Kittanning are again expected to be the frontrunners in the Wolves' subsection, which also includes Valley and Summit Academy.
Altmeyer said taking on those top teams is an opportunity, not a burden, and it shows his wrestlers how high the bar is set.
“It's tough, but those are teams we're excited to wrestle against,” Altmeyer said. “If we can go on the mat and be competitive with a team like Burrell, one of the best high school teams in the state and the country, then that can be a boost of confidence for our guys.”
Before those tough matches roll around, the Wolves' inexperienced wrestlers will continue to get quality practice on the mats. Good practice time comes easier now for West Shamokin, and that's a direct result of the boosted participation.
“With the numbers now, we do have practice partners for everybody, which is great for them,” Altmeyer said. “It's nice that we can pick out three or four guys around the same weight, and it benefits them that we don't have lightweights wrestling with middleweights.”